Seoul's spy service says North Korea preparing for nuclear test
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea's spy service thinks North Korea is preparing for a fourth nuclear test but not in the immediate future, according to South Korean lawmakers who attended a closed-door meeting with agency officials Tuesday.
The office of lawmaker Lee Cheol Woo said the National Intelligence Service made the assessment after monitoring activities at North Korea's main Nyongbyon nuclear complex.
Lee and another lawmaker, Shin Kyung-min, said the spy agency didn't say how it obtained the information. Shin said it also didn't elaborate on what test preparations meant. The spy agency's public affairs office said it could not confirm the reported assessment.
Last month, North Korea said it had upgraded and restarted all of its atomic fuel plants, sparking speculation that it might carry out a fourth nuclear test explosion.
The speculation subsided after North Korea did not go ahead with a threat to conduct a banned long-range rocket launch to send what it called a satellite into orbit earlier this month. All of North Korea's three previous nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013 came after it launched long-range rockets.
In Washington, Sung Kim, the top U.S. envoy on North Korea, told reporters Tuesday: "I have seen nothing to indicate that a test is being planned. But we are monitoring closely."
He added that North Korea was prohibited under multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions from conducting nuclear activities.
A fourth test could put North Korea a step closer to its goal of building a nuclear warhead small enough to mount on a long-range missile that could threaten the U.S. mainland. North Korea says it has already manufactured such a warhead, but many foreign analysts are skeptical of its claim.